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Activity Streams - a demise of productivity
Chris Miller    

I really don't like the current state and implementation idea of activity streams.  There, I said it. Now I can explain more about why.

IBM made a grand showing of integrating activity streams into the Notes client with the Social Edition and the expansion in IBM Connections with OpenSocial. However, they introduced this idea well over a year ago (below image from Feb 2011) with no traction.  I believe that expanding capabilities is always a bonus for any product if it allows more adoption and usage.

Image:Activity Streams - a demise of productivity

I have been quite verbal since R1 and R2 of Lotus (now IBM) Connections about the easier inclusion of public services. Activity Streams are not what I had in mind.  I feel that they will become a distraction more than a productivity tool.

By default, all the implementations of activity streams cause users to oversubscribe.  This has happened in email lists, RSS feeds and even friends on Facebook.  Oversubscription causes you to lose focus and no longer pay attention to any part of the stream.  Look at Twitter and Facebook.  In their natural state they become fairly useless since you miss a ton of data and cannot keep up unless you only watch the stream.

Once a user is oversubscribed (think tons of time working with projects, users, communities, email and more) the only way out is stream bankruptcy. Mass unsubscription from everything.  Then the cycle repeats itself.  No productivity is gained building the subscriptions, during the over subscription, during the bankruptcy and then the restart.

The next missing piece is proper filtering tools and skills.  Look at the number of third party tools that started around public streams like Twitter.  Some, like Refynr, had to shut down the filtering due to low adoption since users are too lazy to filter.  We even podcasted about this back in 2009 on TheSocialGeeks.

Filters are far more than being able to sort hundreds or thousands of threads that have come through, full text capability found in todays databases and email are a stating point. Email will not go away anytime in our future as IT administrators, there is too much history, information and workflow built in.

Users creating the inherent ability to share everything to a stream will also not become second nature.  The intimate feel of email communication is a stop factor for many in tools like Twitter.  Keep in mind the activity stream in Facebook is forced, not something the user does consciously. User need the structure and compartmentalized approach that databases, such as email, offer to be productive.

I do applaud innovation, integration, portfolio expansion and more than IBM has undertaken.  I just don't think a full onslaught of activity streams will be easily adopted in a productive manner. Yes it is optional for everyone.  I am talking about what they showed as the current tool state to be clear.

Jan 26, 2012
91 hits

Recent Blog Posts

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IBM adds audio video calling to IBM SmartCloud for Social Business
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